22 October 2023

When it comes to Israel and Ukraine funding, go big and go long


The House of Representatives remains grasped by chaos, and even when a Speaker is elected, the appetite for Ukraine spending appears to be limited. And yet, writes retired Army general John Ferrari below, Congress needs to find a way to pass a supplemental for both Ukraine and Israel — and make it a big one.

With our government’s dysfunction on full display to the world, war rages in both Europe and the Middle East. To assume our adversaries are not taking note would be foolish: Russia is both continuing its terror in Ukraine while deepening its relationship with North Korea. Meanwhile, China continues to aggressively challenge America’s ability to operate in the international waterways around Taiwan. And the Middle East is on a knife’s edge in what could set off a regional conflagration.

In order to convince Hamas and our state adversaries that we have both the will and capacity to thwart their aggression, Congress should pass, as soon as legislatively possible, an emergency wartime supplemental funding bill of $100 billion.

Yes, that seems like an eye-watering figure on paper. But given the coming election year and the slim margins of power within the House, Congress will have one and only one realistic opportunity to pass this emergency funding. Therefore, the dollar amount needs to be sufficient to last until the next Congress is seated in early 2025, and passed without expiration dates tied to its funds.

Biden is expected to request $100 billion for Israel, Ukraine and other crises.

Karoun Demirjian

President Biden is expected to ask Congress in the coming days to approve about $100 billion in emergency funds to arm Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan and fortify the U.S.-Mexico border, according to multiple people familiar with the plan.

The funding request, which lawmakers expect to receive by Friday morning, would cover a full year and is aimed at insulating the security funding from the partisan spending battles that have hamstrung recent efforts to supply Ukraine with weapons and other assistance to beat back a Russian invasion.

The package is expected to include about $10 billion in mostly military assistance to help Israel, as well as around $60 billion for Ukraine, according to aides familiar with the discussions, who described the emerging proposal on the condition of anonymity because it has yet to be announced. The balance of the $100 billion is expected to be dedicated to border security and helping beef up the defenses of Taiwan and the Indo-Pacific region, in order to better counter threats from China.

Over the last week, senior White House officials and Senate leaders signaled their intention to link aid for multiple national security objectives. The strategy reflects the growing urgency surrounding the war in Ukraine and the sudden outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas.

They are pursuing one large package of aid despite objections from Republicans in the House, where the majority of G.O.P. members enthusiastically support equipping Israel with the weapons to fight Hamas but have soured on continuing to send military assistance to Ukraine for its fight against Russian aggression.

A World on the Brink: Will US Alliances Hold To Defend Democracies?

Donald Kirk

Certain parallels between the North-South confrontation on the Korean peninsula and the response to the Hamas attack on Israel are more than a little disquieting.

Just as the Americans sent an aircraft carrier, the Gerald Ford, to the Mediterranean coast of Israel, so they sent another carrier, the Ronald Reagan, and a B52 bomber to South Korea. Their visits make a symbolic point: U.S. forces can deal with crises on widely separated fronts. That is less than totally certain, however, when you consider the worsening build-up of arms everywhere.

Victor Cha, Korea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, summarized the gravity of the problem during a talk in Seoul to introduce his latest book, “Korea: A New History of South and North,” co-authored with Ramon Pardo of King’s College, London. Rail traffic across the 18-kilometer-long Tumen River border between North Korea and Russia, he observed, had vastly increased in recent weeks.

Whatever was beneath the tarpaulins covering the freight cars was hidden, said Cha, but the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un, was making good on promises he made to Russian President Vladimir Putin to ship artillery shells and other munitions for the Russians’ war in Ukraine. And the Russians no doubt were repaying the favor with gear the North Koreans need to put a satellite into orbit and to upgrade their basic arsenal, including an air force that dates from the Soviet era.

No one quite expects war to break out in the near future between U.S. and Russian forces in Ukraine, or between the U.S. and North Korea, or between the U.S. and Iran and the Iran-armed Hamas in Gaza or Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, but Cha and Pardo make clear the unpredictability of the future, at least as far as North Korea goes.

Why Egypt and other Arab countries are unwilling to take in Palestinian refugees from Gaza


As desperate Palestinians in sealed-off Gaza try to find refuge under Israel’s relentless bombardment in retaliation for Hamas’ brutal Oct. 7 attack, some ask why neighboring Egypt and Jordan don’t take them in.

The two countries, which flank Israel on opposite sides and share borders with Gaza and the occupied West Bank, respectively, have replied with a staunch refusal. Jordan already has a large Palestinian population.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi made his toughest remarks yet on Wednesday, saying the current war was not just aimed at fighting Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, “but also an attempt to push the civilian inhabitants to ... migrate to Egypt.” He warned this could wreck peace in the region.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II gave a similar message a day earlier, saying, “No refugees in Jordan, no refugees in Egypt.”

Their refusal is rooted in fear that Israel wants to force a permanent expulsion of Palestinians into their countries and nullify Palestinian demands for statehood. El-Sissi also said a mass exodus would risk bringing militants into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, from where they might launch attacks on Israel, endangering the two countries’ 40-year-old peace treaty.

Biden’s Choice: Can We Ensure the Defense of Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan?

William Moloney

The parallels are eerie: Israel is at war, following a successful surprise attack enabled partly by a failure of U.S. and Israeli intelligence services. The Jewish state is confronting enemies on all three borders. It is the object of virulent hatred across much of the Muslim world, faces widespread indifference in some European countries, and in the U.S. some are reasserting the familiar argument of “moral equivalence” between Israeli and Palestinian causes.

In Washington, the American president has his own troubles, with plummeting approval numbers, a sputtering economy, a sour national mood following a long and unsuccessful war, and an opposition party sponsoring investigations alleging lawless behavior, discussing impeachment, and determined to end his presidency.

The above descriptions, with marginal variations, somewhat portray the conditions in Israel and the United States both today and in 1973.

Back then, President Richard Nixon responded to Israel’s plea for assistance by ordering, within eight days of an initial attack, a massive airlift — “Operation Nickel Grass” — that delivered in roughly a month’s time 22,325 tons of tanks, artillery and ammunition. This extraordinary effort allowed Israel to decisively turn the tide of the war against the invading Egyptians, and effectively deterred other bad actors — including Russia — from involvement in the conflict.

The world has changed dramatically in the half-century since the Yom Kippur War. The relative strength of the United States in the international balance of power is greatly diminished from what it was in 1973. The detente with China that Nixon achieved in 1972 is a thing of the past. Today China is a committed opponent, determined to overturn what it sees as American hegemony. Iran — once a U.S. ally under the shah — is now one of America’s most implacable foes and a sponsor of the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist organizations attacking Israel.

Four Misconceptions About the War in Gaza

Andrew Exum

The past week in Israel and the Palestinian territories has been horrific, and the next few weeks promise only more misery and pain.

Every shooting war is also a war between competing narratives—each side has its preferred way of framing the conflict—and few have been as fiercely contested in this regard as the war between Israel and the Palestinians. A week in, we should pause to interrogate some of what we have heard combatants and pundits say.

Hamas is ISIS.

In the aftermath of the attacks on Israel, which included atrocities such as the murder of children and the elderly, Israel and its defenders have likened Hamas to the Islamic State, the violent Islamist movement that briefly took over large swaths of Iraq and Syria before its defeat by local forces.

The comparison is at once understandable and misguided. I served as the senior Pentagon official responsible for the Middle East when we created the campaign plan that eventually defeated ISIS, and I remember the reporting—both open-source and classified—that clearly outlined the group’s ruthless nature. Hamas is certainly guilty of ISIS-like crimes, and it is responsible for all of the atrocities that took place on Israeli soil. But some of those crimes—including the murder of innocent civilians—appear to reflect Hamas’s disorganization, relative to ISIS, as much as its brutality.

Terrorists could be inspired by Hamas, spymasters warn

Fiona Hamilton

MI5 is “paying very close attention” to Islamists in the UK amid fears that the events in the Middle East could inspire a terrorist atrocity, its director-general said.

Ken McCallum warned that Islamist radicals as well as antisemites and neo-Nazis pose a threat to the Jewish community in the wake of the “monstrous attacks” by Hamas. Spies are understood to have stepped up their monitoring because of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

McCallum said that MI5 is “attuned to the risk” that lone terrorists could be inspired by violence in the Middle East, or that terrorist groups “may choose to strike in a new way” after Israel was caught by surprise by the nature of the assault by Hamas.

The situation could also embolden Iran, he said, with the hostile state already linked to more than a dozen assassination and kidnap plots in Britain.

McCallum, speaking at an unprecedented security summit with the UK’s closest intelligence allies, said: “There clearly is the possibility that profound events in the Middle East will either generate more volume of UK threat and/or change its shape in terms of what is being targeted, in terms of how people are taking inspiration.”

McCallum appeared in public for the first time with counterparts from the Five Eyes Alliance, Britain’s decades-old intelligence partnership with the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Law of Armed Conflict in the Israel-Hamas War

Ryan Goodman, Michael W. Meier and Tess Bridgeman

The following describes the law of armed conflict (LOAC), also known as international humanitarian law, that applies to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war. We identify where the law is well settled and clear, and where it is less so.

We do not apply the law to any alleged facts. Indeed, whether any conduct violates the law would generally require a fact-driven, case-by-case analysis.

We hope this guidance will assist policymakers, diplomats, analysts, reporters, scholars, and the public at large.

1. Equal Application Principle

A bedrock principle is that the laws of war apply equally to all belligerent parties. Both sides must comply with LOAC.

That principle holds regardless of which side attacked first, whether the initial attack complied with international law, which side is acting in lawful self-defense, and irrespective of the relative justice of the causes involved.

2. Sources

LOAC treaties and customary international law govern the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Customary international law involves rules that States accept as binding international obligations that have not been codified in a treaty between the parties.

Iran Update, October 18, 2023

Ashka Jhaveri, Andie Parry, Johanna Moore, Brian Carter, and Amin Soltani

The Iran Update provides insights into Iranian and Iranian-sponsored activities abroad that undermine regional stability and threaten US forces and interests. It also covers events and trends that affect the stability and decision-making of the Iranian regime. The Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) provides these updates regularly based on regional events. For more on developments in Iran and the region, see our interactive map of Iran and the Middle East.

Note: CTP and ISW have refocused the update to cover the Israel-Hamas war. The new sections address developments in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon, and Syria, as well as noteworthy activity from Iran’s Axis of Resistance. We do not report in detail on war crimes because these activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We utterly condemn violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

Key Takeaways:

Israel-Hamas war illuminates trouble with political hacking groups

Sam Sabin

The war between Israel and Hamas is reminding governments just how difficult it is to control politically motivated hacking groups.

Why it matters: Politically motivated hackers (also known as hacktivists) often target state-backed organizations and groups in an effort to complicate war efforts.
  • But military cyberattacks and nefarious citizen-run attacks each come with their own geopolitical consequences.
The big picture: The war in Ukraine restarted a conversation about what role, if any, political hackers should have during wartime — and that conversation is now spilling into the fight between Israel and Hamas.
Driving the news: Since Hamas' surprise attack on Israel, political hacking groups have launched a series of cyberattacks targeting critical services.

Europe must refuse to be terrorised


Europe stands united against terror. We must refuse to be divided. The terrorists shall not win. All the usual platitudes are being dusted off once again, in the wake of two appalling Islamist terror attacks in Europe – first in France, now in Belgium.

Last night, a suspected Islamist terrorist shot dead two Swedish nationals and injured another when he went on a rampage in Brussels with an automatic rifle. The suspect, a 45-year-old Tunisian known as Abdesalem Al Guilani, posted videos online calling himself a fighter for Allah and ISIS. After a night-long manhunt, Brussels police shot him dead this morning.

This comes just days after a deadly knife attack in Arras in northern France last Friday – which the world seems to have already forgotten about. The alleged attacker, 20-year-old Chechen Mohamed Mogouchkov, stabbed a teacher to death and seriously wounded two others at a school. He was apprehended, alive, at the scene.

More specific motives haven’t been confirmed, but there are already plenty of clues. The Brussels killer seemed to suggest, in one of his videos, that he purposefully targeted Swedes. (Belgium were playing Sweden, in the city, in a Euro 2024 qualifying game at the time of the shooting, and his victims were reportedly wearing Sweden shirts.) He also ranted that disrespecting the Koran is a ‘red line’, suggesting his spree may have been in response to the recent Koran-burning controversies in Sweden.

Increased vigilance is needed to address unconventional warfare in the Indo-Pacific


The surprise attack on Israel by Hamas militants on Oct. 7 raises the specter of unconventional warfare being waged to achieve political objectives in other parts of the world as well, including in Japan’s backyard.

Unconventional warfare is a blanket term used to describe all military and quasi-military operations outside of conventional warfare, namely wars fought between states. It includes, but is not exclusive to, revolutionary wars and their constituents, subversion and guerrilla operations, as well as other types of special operations.

The tactics used by Hamas are clear examples of unconventional warfare. These include the launching of "homemade" rockets, the breaching of Israeli borders using motor gliders, bulldozers and boats, as well as the indiscriminate killing and kidnapping of civilians — including children and the elderly — to use as hostages.

As Japan and other like-minded states watch the conflict between Israel and Hamas unfold, it is critical to remain vigilant and to enhance deterrence in the Indo-Pacific against the plurality of security threats that exist — including the possibility of unconventional wars erupting, which could potentially lead to larger conventional conflicts.

Key areas of concern continue to be Taiwan, sea lanes in the South China Sea, the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, North Korea’s development of weapons of mass destruction and the Himalayan Plateau where Indian and Chinese troops clashed in May 2021.

Putin touts solidarity with China in Xi’s pitch for new world order as crisis grips Middle East

Simone McCarthy and Nectar Gan

Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping discussed the conflict in the Middle East during a meeting on the sidelines of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing Wednesday, according to the Russian leader – who said “common threats” brought the two countries closer.

The international gathering, which saw leaders and representatives from countries mostly in the Global South congregate in the Chinese capital, took place under the shadow of war between Israel and militant group Hamas that threatens to escalate into broader regional conflict.

“We discussed in detail the situation in the Middle East,” Putin said in a press conference. “I informed Chairman (Xi) about the situation that is developing on the Ukrainian track, also quite in detail.”

“All these external factors are common threats, and they strengthen Russian-Chinese interaction,” Putin added.

A readout published by Chinese state media said Xi had conducted an “in-depth exchange of views” on the situation of Israel and the Palestinians with his Russian counterpart, but did not provide any further details of what was discussed. Beijing has yet to name or condemn Hamas in its statements.

Allied Spy Chiefs Warn of Chinese Espionage Targeting Tech Firms

Julian E. Barnes

The United States and its allies vowed this week to do more to counter Chinese theft of technology, warning at an unusual gathering of intelligence leaders that Beijing’s espionage is increasingly trained not on the hulking federal buildings of Washington but the shiny office complexes of Silicon Valley.

The intelligence chiefs sought to engage private industry in combating what one official called an “unprecedented threat” on Tuesday as they discussed how to better protect new technologies and help Western countries keep their edge over China.

The choice of meeting venue — Stanford University, in Silicon Valley — was strategic. While Washington is often considered the key espionage battleground in the United States, F.B.I. officials estimate that more than half of Chinese espionage focused on stealing American technology takes place in the Bay Area.

It was the first time the heads of the F.B.I. and Britain’s MI5 and their counterparts from Australia, Canada and New Zealand had gathered for a public discussion of intelligence threats. It was, in effect, a summit of the spy hunters, the counterintelligence agencies whose job it is to detect and stop efforts by China to steal allied secrets.

“That unprecedented meeting is because we are dealing with another unprecedented threat,” said Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director. “There is no greater threat to innovation than the Chinese government.”

America’s LRSO Nuclear Cruise Missile Could Be Here Sooner Than You Think

Alex Hollings

Recently released documents show that the United States has conducted at least nine flight tests of a new long-range nuclear cruise missile meant to be carried by America’s B-52 and forthcoming B-21 Raider bombers. While details about this new missile, dubbed the AGM-181A Long Range Stand Off cruise missile (LRSO), remain limited, these successful tests suggest the weapon is well on its way to entering service before the close of the decade.

While development on the LRSO has been no secret, discussions about this new nuclear-capable cruise missile have been rather muted in recent years. In fact, as far as Sandboxx News can tell, only one of the nine successful flight tests to date had previously been revealed. Word of the rest of these tests only reached the public in early October, when Air & Space Forces Magazine’s Editorial Director John Tirpak came across their inclusion in a 2022 Selected Acquisition Report (SAR). Although the report was dated December 2022, it was only released some weeks ago.

The LRSO is slated to replace America’s aging fleet of AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCM). Its road to service began in 2017 with contracts awarded to both Lockheed Martin and Raytheon to develop competing designs. By 2020, the Air Force announced their decision to move forward with Raytheon’s design, moving Lockheed Martin into a support role rather than removing them from the effort.

Putin deploys combat dolphins to take on Ukrainian commandos


Russia has moved its unique combat dolphins closer to the war frontline in the Black Sea, it has been revealed.

The specially trained anti-sabotage mammals had been deployed at the harbour entrance in Sevastopol.

But satellite images now indicate dolphin sea pens at Novoozerne, 56 miles to the north, closer to where Ukrainian special forces have made incursions and landed on the Crimean peninsula.

The dolphins are trained for use against enemy divers intruding in harbours to plant limpet mines or for reconnaissance.

They have been taught to alert their human controllers - or deliver lethal strikes from underwater guns.

Satellite images (pictured) now indicate dolphin sea pens at Novoozerne, 56 miles to the north, closer to where Ukrainian special forces have made incursions and landed on the Crimean peninsula

U.S. military open to drafting contingency plans with Japan, South Korea


The American military is willing to discuss with Japan and South Korea forming trilateral operational plans for contingencies involving North Korea and China, the top U.S. general for nuclear operations suggested to Nikkei.

U.S. forces face simultaneous challenges on multiple fronts across the world, ranging from the unprecedented attack on Israel by Palestinian militant group Hamas to Russia's 20-month-old invasion of Ukraine, while China and North Korea continue to take provocative actions in the Indo-Pacific region.

"We haven't taken our eye off the ball on what we see across the globe, especially in my portfolio, even with what we're seeing in the Middle East," said Gen. Anthony Cotton, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, in a phone interview on Monday. He stressed that the U.S. is still closely watching North Korea and China.

"I'm confident that the nation is able to support Ukraine, Israel and maintain global readiness throughout the world," said Cotton, who oversees nuclear and global strike operations.

To address a multipolar world, the general hopes that U.S. allies and partners will play a bigger role in maintaining the rule-based international order.

"Whatever help that we can get from other allies and partners I think would be appreciated," he said.

Technology and the End of the Russia-Ukrainian War

Brandon Valeriano

Projecting how a war will end can be a fraught enterprise. Hoping for the complete collapse of the Russian military and a putsch overthrowing Vladimir Putin is pure fantasy at this point. It is also absolute hubris to argue that the next “new” weapon will transform the conflict, providing either Ukraine or Russia a free run at the opposition.

Initially, it was the grand hopes of artificial intelligence and cyber operations, with cyber providing a “thunder run” opportunity for Russia to open the gates of Kyiv. At this point, a laughable conjecture is offered by very serious pundits. AI has also proven just as frustrating, playing a more significant role in battle coordination behind the scenes or for facial recognition of the dead rather than facilitating the emergence of a modern AI general to lead the military.

While the precision strike complex has transformed modern combat since the 1980s, enabling the massive destruction of armor on the battlefield, mines and layers of trenches remain the natural obstacles. Active surveillance facilitated by drones and satellites helps keep constant eyes on the battlefield, lessening the fog of war. Yet, this has been true since the advent of old-fashioned balloons and reconnaissance aircraft, as old as World War I.

The latest hope is delivering the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMs). An advance in the range from the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), an ATACM can reach 190 miles behind the front lines while HIMARS can reach forty-three miles. Unfortunately, these are not transformative weapons because the United States has too few, and Ukraine needs to advance further to hit critical targets deep in Crimea.

Why there’s new urgency to win in Ukraine

Rick Newman

With no public notice, the United States has provided Ukraine an advanced missile system it withheld for the first 20 months of Ukraine’s war with Russia. Count that as the latest escalatory move in a world that suddenly seems filled with intensifying conflict.

Russia will threaten mayhem in response. Yet President Biden may finally have decided that the best way forward in Ukraine is to go all-in and help the besieged nation win on the battlefield instead of merely preventing it from losing. If so, it’s an overdue assertion of American power that could mark a defining moment of Biden’s presidency and perhaps help his 2024 reelection effort.

On Oct. 17, Ukraine struck a Russian airfield about 80 miles behind the front lines, destroying several helicopters and a bunch of other Russian equipment. Most missiles in Ukraine’s arsenal can’t travel that far with the kind of explosives that can destroy a fleet of aircraft arrayed on a tarmac. Russian images of the debris showed components of the US Army tactical missile system, known as ATACMS, and US officials told several news organizations the United States has finally given Ukraine the long-range missiles they’ve been pleading for. The fact that Russia left helicopters vulnerable to such a strike suggests they didn’t think Ukraine would get the missiles.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Biden’s support has been instrumental, with the United States donating far more military equipment than any other nation. But Biden has also taken an incremental approach meant to avoid sharp provocations that could somehow trigger a wider American war with Russia. Since there has been no wider war, Biden can claim his approach has worked. But he has also taken considerable flak for holding back capabilities Ukraine needs to make decisive battlefield breakthroughs.

Why Azerbaijan should join NATO

George Monastiriakos

Of all of Putin’s strategic mistakes, none has benefited the US-led western alliance more than Russia’s catastrophic invasion of Ukraine. After Finland’s accession in April and Sweden’s sooner rather than later, Washington and Brussels could strengthen NATO once more. In September 2023, Baku dismantled the internationally unrecognized Republic of Artsakh in the Azerbaijani district of Nagorno-Karabakh and restored its territorial integrity after 30 years of Armenian military occupation. Once a peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia is signed, Baku will be free to apply for NATO membership through the Alliance’s open-door policy. Washington and Brussels would be wise to entertain its application.

There are at least two significant obstacles to Baku’s ambitious application.

First, unlike Finland and Sweden, Azerbaijan is not a liberal democracy. Far from it. Nevertheless, the perks of NATO membership could incentivize Baku to institute democratic reforms, crackdown on corruption, and improve its human rights record. Over time, this may even pave the way for Baku to upgrade the EU-Azerbaijan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement that underpins their relationship to full-fledged EU membership. Given that democratization is one of the reasons why NATO was founded, membership in the Alliance consistently serves as a checkpoint on the highway for states seeking to join the European Union. This challenge can be overcome with time and effort.

Second, Western politicians are accountable to constituents and loyal to donors in the Armenian diaspora. They consistently engage in performative solidarity with Armenian separatists in Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region to satisfy diaspora voters at the expense of their national interest, that is maintaining and strengthening the Western alliance. For example: France sabotaged peace talks between Baku and Yerevan in Granada two weeks ago by stating it would sell arms to Armenia, a CSTO member state trafficking Iranian-made weapons that kill innocent and defenseless Ukrainian civilians to Russia. This challenge can be overcome with reason and education.

Ukraine Fires ATACMS Missiles at Russian Forces for the First Time

Michael R. Gordon, Nancy A. Youssef and Matthew Luxmoore

Ukraine launched ATACMS missiles at Russian forces on Tuesday, marking the first time that the U.S.-provided weapons have been used since Moscow invaded the country.

A small number of the missiles have been secretly sent to Ukraine in recent days, where they will augment Kyiv’s capability to carry out long-range strikes at Russian forces during an important stage of its counteroffensive, according to people familiar with the matter.

Ukraine has long sought ATACMS, a surface-to-surface missile that can be fired by the Himars, or High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launchers, the U.S. first provided last year.

On Tuesday, the Ukrainian military’s communication department said on the Telegram messaging app that it “made well-aimed strikes on enemy airfields and helicopters near the temporarily occupied Luhansk and Berdyansk.”

The ATACMS models that were provided have a range of about 100 miles.

The U.S. decision to send the ATACMS, which stands for the Army Tactical Missile System, has been long in the making. Ukraine repeatedly said the missiles were essential to its war plan, giving it the range it needed to strike targets behind the front lines in Russian-held Ukrainian territory.

Ukraine’s Special Operations Forces said the attacks caused dozens of Russian casualties and destroyed nine Russian helicopters, an air defense launcher and an ammunition depot. It said the military struck the two airfields after receiving intelligence that Russia was using them as a major base for aircraft, military hardware and ammunition in the occupied territories.

Inside Biden’s Reversal on Sending Long-Range Missiles to Ukraine

David E. Sanger

From the opening days of the war in Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky told President Biden there was one weapon he needed above all others: Long-range missiles, known as ATACMS, that could reach air bases and Russian troops more than 100 miles behind the lines.

For the better part of 18 months, Mr. Biden had one response, both publicly and in his sometimes tense private meetings with Mr. Zelensky: No.

The weapons, he said, could cross one of the “red lines” of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, a possibility the president had to take seriously since Mr. Putin was episodically threatening to unleash tactical nuclear weapons.

After blasts at two air bases in Russian-held territory in southern and eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, it became clear that Mr. Biden had changed his mind, again. Amid the wreckage of Russian helicopters, there was evidence that the bases had been struck by American-supplied ATACMS — Army Tactical Missile Systems — that were the last big unfulfilled ask from Mr. Zelensky.

The story of how that happened, as described by several administration officials, is more complex than a caricature circulating in Washington that Mr. Biden is cautious to a fault, and says no until the pressure is insurmountable.

In this case, there was plenty of pressure. Some came from members of Congress, including Representative Jason Crow, a Colorado Democrat and former Army Ranger, who wrote to the White House that Ukraine needed weapons “to target deep supply lines and Russian command and control centers.” Mr. Crow added that while systems already provided to Ukraine were being used “to devastating effect,” the Russians “have adapted to ensure key assets are outside their range.”


Angelica Evans, Nicole Wolkov, Karolina Hird, Riley Bailey, and Mason Clark

Russian sources claimed that likely company-sized elements of two Ukrainian naval infantry brigades conducted an assault across the Dnipro River onto the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast on October 17-18. Geolocated footage published on October 18 indicates that Ukrainian forces advanced north of Pishchanivka (14km east of Kherson City and 3km from the Dnipro River) and into Poyma (11km east of Kherson City and 4km from the Dnipro River).[1] A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that two Ukrainian “assault groups” landed on the east bank of the Dnipro River and broke through initial Russian defenses, temporarily occupying all of Poyma and positions on the northern outskirts of Pishchanivka on the afternoon of October 17.[2] The milblogger later claimed that Russian forces pushed Ukrainian forces back from these positions towards the Dnipro River.[3] The milblogger claimed that a Ukrainian sabotage group is still operating in Pishchanivka as of the afternoon of October 18. The milblogger, however, suggested that Russian forces only maintain positions on the southern outskirts of the settlement. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) also acknowledged the Ukrainian operations, claiming that Russian forces stopped four Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance groups near Pidstepne (16km east of Kherson City) and Poyma.[4] Another prominent Russian milblogger also claimed that Ukrainian forces occupied Poyma on the night of October 17 to 18.[5]

Russian sources expressed pronounced concern about ongoing Ukrainian activity on the east bank of Kherson Oblast and framed these activities as part of a potential larger Ukrainian operation. The majority of Russian claims about developments on the east bank are largely single-sourced to one prominent Russian milblogger who has recently heavily focused his reporting on this section of the front.[6] Russian sources characterized the reported assaults as a Ukrainian effort to expand a “bridgehead” on the east bank and the initial stages of a larger offensive operation across the Dnipro River.[7]


Angus Fletcher and Tom Gaines

Here’s the straight dirt: comms wins wars. It dispatches orders, masses fires, updates intel, stops fratricide, coordinates evolving mission sets, and maintains command and control.

The lesson finished, right? Except for one last fact: the enemy knows that comms wins wars. This is why any near-peer adversary will hunt with violence for our satellite communication systems, tactical datalinks, wireless intercoms, vehicular transceivers, handheld devices, digital terminals, and GPS transponders. And you can bet that despite our most creative countermeasures, the enemy will be effective. The radios will jam. Routers will go haywire. Satellites will fall out of the sky.

Really, then, comms wins wars, but only if allowed to function unimpeded. In a war characterized by contested communications environments, victory will go to the force that adapts best when comms gets hit, punching ugly holes in networks, fragmenting information capacity, and necessitating tighter, intermittent, asynchronous bursts. So, how can we be that winning force? How can we compensate for discontinuous comms and maintain the communication needed for success? By leveraging the decentralized intelligence of individual units to coordinate in blackout via a shared understanding of the greater mission. Or, more simply, the commander’s intent.

This should be no problem because the commander’s intent is US Army doctrine. But this will in fact be a very big problem because the Army has long struggled to convert this doctrine into practice. We’re good at defining what a commander’s intent is—but not so good at explaining how to execute it.

Is the U.S. Military Prepared to Fight 3 Wars at Once?

Mackenzie Eaglen

Six years ago, I testified before the United States Senate and suggested the return of mass and attrition as foundational force planning principles within the national defense strategy. I went on to note the need was urgent given our existing capability gaps against China and Russia in particular.

Fast forward to 2023 and a war of mass precision, at range and at scale, is taking place in Ukraine. Unfortunately, the US military did not use the intervening years to get well.

Congress and the Budget Control Act certainly did them no favors, either. But even worse is the seeming inability in Washington to plan beyond a preferred outcome, rather than a more likely—and bloody—reality.

Policymakers should not be lulled into complacency by faulty assumptions of a technologically unmatched and better trained military, as years of prioritizing capability over capacity have created a brittle force. The war in Ukraine should also dispel any considerations that long and violent wars are unlikely.

These myths become ever more apparent as China continues to achieve parity with—or exceed—the United States military in several modernization areas, including land-based conventional ballistic and cruise missiles, shipbuilding, integrated air defense systems, and land-based (stationary and mobile) intercontinental ballistic missile launchers.